Europeans ask U.S. not to seek death penalty in Cole bombing

McClatchy NewspapersJune 9, 2011 

LONDON — The European Parliament, long a foe of the death penalty, urged the U.S. Thursday to abandon plans to seek the death penalty for a Saudi-born captive accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

In a resolution, the parliament noted that the accused, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 46, was held and interrogated at a secret CIA prison in Europe out of reach of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"Mr. al-Nashiri's case is especially sensitive in Europe, since he alleges that for several months in 2002 and 2003 he was tortured and held in secret CIA detention in Poland, and that during his four years in CIA custody before being transferred to Guantanamo, he was tortured by various means including waterboarding," the parliament said in a statement announcing its approval of the resolution.

President George W. Bush ordered in September 2006 the transfer of Nashiri and more than a dozen other secretly held CIA prisoners to Guantanamo, where they were to be tried before military commissions. President Barack Obama froze the military trials to study the cases and reform the process, which resulted in Attorney General Eric Holder's decision in 2009 that Nashiri should face military trial there.

Nashiri, who was captured in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, is accused of leading the al Qaida operation that sent two suicide bombers into the side of the Cole Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 American sailors.

The Pentagon's war crimes prosecutor has proposed a death penalty trial. Nashiri's American lawyers are now preparing plea to a retired vice admiral who oversees the court to reduce the maximum penalty in the case to life in prison.

No date has been set for Nashiri's initial appearance; he has never been seen at the war court in Guantanamo.

The European Parliament legislates laws common to the 27 European Union countries. Previous parliament sessions have urged member nations to help resettle Guantanamo captives as part of Obama's so-far failed ambition to close the detention center in Cuba.

(Rosenberg reports for The Miami Herald.)

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